Father and Son

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“Part of our call to follow Christ is to look around and see what else we can do.  Pope Francis calls us to do more, to serve the materially poor,” says Jim Shea, SJ, a Jesuit in formation of the Chicago-Detroit Province.

Jim Shea, SJ, a Jesuit in formation, shares his call to service to the materially poor with his father, Dick, an Ignatian Volunteer.  (Photo courtesy of the Jesuits of the Midwest Provinces)

Jim Shea, SJ, a Jesuit in formation, shares his call to service to the materially poor with his father, Dick, an Ignatian Volunteer. (Photo courtesy of the Jesuits of the Midwest Provinces)

Jim and his father Dick Shea, an Ignatian Volunteer, live as men for others, showing their faith through their actions.

Jim’s Jesuit formation has included various types of service: teaching in a Chicago high school, leading a Confirmation class in a parish, and participating in retreats with men and women who are homeless, with the Ignatian Spirituality Project, an IVC partner agency.  He is currently a student in the Master of Divinity program at Boston College.  He hopes to graduate next May and be ordained in June 2015.

Ignatian Volunteer Jim Shea with Christine Curran, IVC Chicago Regional Director

Ignatian Volunteer Jim Shea with Christine Curran, IVC Chicago Regional Director

His father Dick, a retired civil engineer, has been an Ignatian Volunteer for four years and serves year-round at the Howard Area Community Center in Chicago.  He meets one-on-one with individuals, asks questions, and helps to “fill in the gaps and help people flesh out their work lives,” he says.

The Call

For father and son, the inspiration to serve began with the Jesuits at Loyola University of Chicago. Jim says, “I really didn’t meet the Jesuits until I went to college.  It was my first time having priests for teachers.  I was deeply impressed with the Jesuits.  They showed a great care for their students.  It’s the  curae personalis, the Jesuits’ care for the individual.  The seed for my vocation was planted there.”

Dick Shea describes his interactions with the Jesuits and how he came to join IVC: “We would go to Mass at Madonna Della Strada Chapel at Loyola.  It was our chance to see Jim once a week.”  Dick and his wife continued to worship there even when Jim graduated, and they came to know and love the Jesuits.  They attended an IVC info session, and Dick joined in 2010, months after his beloved wife passed away.

“I needed something then, and my service got me into a structured week.  IVC has been a savior to me.”

The Response

Jim Shea chose to expand his service to work with men and women struggling with homelessness.  He describes how discernment led to this service: “I’ve spent most of my life in cities.  When you’re riding the train, riding the bus, walking down the street, you often come across people who are homeless.  You don’t always pause to think about it.

Jim Shea (second row, center) with fellow retreatants on an ISP retreat in Boston.  ISP hosts Ignatian Spirituality retreats for homeless adults.

Jim Shea (second row, center) with fellow retreatants on an ISP retreat in Boston. ISP hosts Ignatian Spirituality retreats for homeless adults.

After a while, though, your conscience starts to bother you, and that’s a good thing.  Part of my Jesuit training is reflecting on this and discerning what the Holy Spirit is saying to me.  I reflect on what I can do.  My service with men and women who are homeless is one example of how to reach out, and it has been a great tool for my growth as a human being.

“One of the amazing things is that Dad got involved in service to the poor first.  My dad has really been an example for me.  I always wanted to do something, but that was the spur that got me involved.  I thank my dad for that.”

His father Dick says, “I think it’s an incredible grace that Jim is called by God to be part of a religious order, and the Jesuits.  Everyone who I know respects the Jesuits for being learned, down-to-earth, and concerned.  It is a great charism.  My wife and I were very impressed that Jim responded positively to this call.  I’m very proud of him.”

And of his own experiences of service and reflection in the Jesuit tradition, Dick says, “The experience has been incredible.  I’ve been on Cloud 9 in my four years with IVC at the Howard Area Community Center.”

This story was originally published in June 2014

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